I was at the Minnesota state fair today and as we were leaving, we happened to walk by a booth where a tall strapping guy with a Brittany Spears headset microphone was engaging a slightly shorter slightly older guy holding an ordinary microphone in a debate. As we walked past, the first thing I heard was “well according to you, they don’t sound too different, I mean, one is with an ‘e’, the other is with an ‘I’, what’s so different?” As the debate progressed, it was fairly clear that “e” was for “evolution” and “I” was for “intelligent design”.
What turned my stomach was not the shorter guy’s explanations on evolution. Rather, it was the way the creationist treated said shorter guy: like a hostage. The poor evolutionist was clearly not entirely sure why he believed in evolution, only that it seemed to make sense when they explained it in biology all those years ago. The creationist, on the other hand, was adamant about his heavily-researched position, very sure that he’d gotten it right.
Lemme tell ya: lamb to the slaughter.
And as we left the fair (very full of corn dogs, caramel apples, lemonade, and the like), all I could do was shake my head and fantasize about running the creationist through the ringer, how I would’ve answered his questions, defending the evolutionist; a reaction which sorta took me by surprise. I’ve been a creationist since my freshman year of college, and, like the creationist at the fair, I’ve done a lot of research on the two positions (which really ends up being about ten positions, but that’s for another time). And so I’m pretty sure that I believe what I believe and there’s no turning my mind, save God’s own revelation.
And yet instead of saying “amen, brother”, I felt pity for the evolutionist. Not because I thought he was right to blindly believe something (though I also find myself an advocate for that sometimes), but because of the way the creationist was badgering him, needling him, provoking him, and generally making him look (and probably feel) like a fool.
It was humbling. I used to do that - I was the creationist, out to badger every heathen at my very liberal university about why they were wrong about evolution. I was going to single-handedly, in one short debate with each person, turn the campus around, win it for Jesus, all by proving them all wrong. Obviously, they'd see it my way if I proved them wrong, right?
As Christians, we are to defend the weak and oppressed, and that is exactly what came to mind today as I watched the helpless evolutionist succumb to the oppressive “Christian”. On our way home, my friend Kirsten and I talked over the subject of debate: is it worth debating? While I’m amused that we almost debated the idea of debate, we agreed in the end that it’s not really much of a debate. Translation: debate, as we know it, is not very helpful. Most of the time it turns out to be just what we watched on our way to the car: a lamb to the slaughter, some Christian itching to prove his faith superior who actively mangles some helpless bystander.
It wins nobody.
Just like the tract we received from some guy at the exit on the way out, “debating the issues” in this fashion wins nobody for Christ. For one, the evolutionist did not leave home that day seeking a debate over the issue. Second, the manner in which he was treated was down right rude and obnoxious. Third, while I didn’t see him leave, I can’t imagine he left feeling very good about himself or the guys that solicited his opinion. Kirsten said it best: debate only wins enemies.
[Stay tuned for part 2: a proposed solution to this problem]